BARRE – For the second time this year, the stage is set for the sale of a locally owned lumber company that was founded in 1888 and is now weeks away from shedding its well-known name.
Friday, Nov. 13, will mark the beginning of the transition for Allen Lumber Co., though both the owners and the employees will be staying on following a sale that slid seven-and-a-half months due to COVID-19.
Plans for a March 31 closing were scratched in the early days of the pandemic when the pending sale of Allen Lumber to r.k. Miles Inc. was pushed to the back burner with an eye toward getting the deal done by the end of November.
That remains the plan, and, barring a glitch neither foresees, Josiah “Joe” Miles, president of r.k. Miles and Burnie Allen of Allen Lumber said the closing is now set for Monday, Nov. 16, and Allen Lumber’s outlets in Barre, Montpelier, St. Johnsbury and Waitsfield will reopen as r.k. Miles the following day.
“The name is changing, but the faces aren’t,” Allen said of the fifth-generation Barre business that was founded by Stillman Allen 132 years ago.
Burnie Allen and his brothers, Steve, Gary, Tom and Paul, took over the business when their father, Bob, retired in 1984, and when Paul Allen died nearly four years ago, that prompted a family discussion that eventually led to the looming sale.
Though none of the surviving Allen brothers are quite ready to retire, some say they are closer than others and all are part of a business transition they’ve had longer than expected to ponder since signing the purchase and sale agreement with r.k. Miles in January.
“It’s pretty emotional for a lot of us here,” Burnie Allen said Monday. “It’s been one hell of a run for this family for five generations.”
Miles said Monday he is eager to finally get the deal done, and officially welcome the new members to the r.k. Miles team.
“We’re looking forward to working with the Allens and their employees,” said the owner of a third-generation building supply business that is poised to double its Vermont presence by adding Allen Lumber’s four locations.
Based in Manchester, r.k. Miles currently has six outlets – four in Vermont and two in Massachusetts. The existing Vermont locations are in Manchester, Middlebury, Morrisville and Stowe and that list will grow to include Barre, Montpelier, St. Johnsbury and Waitsfield once the deal is done.
Unless something changes, Miles said Allen Lumber will close for the last time at noon on Friday, Nov. 13. That weekend, he said, would be spent completing a computer conversion at all four stores that was initially planned in March. The closing is set for Monday, Nov. 16 and Miles said he has rented the basement of the Barre Municipal Auditorium that day so that he would have a room big enough to safely assemble Allen Lumber employees for an orientation and safety training.
Following the death of his father, Richard K. Miles Jr., in 1992, Miles took over the family business his grandfather, Richard K. Miles Sr., founded in Manchester in 1940. Over the years he has strategically sought opportunities to expand the business. In 2005 he acquired Taconic Lumber Co. – adding established locations in Middlebury and Williamstown, Mass. Three yeas later he opened a second Massachusetts location in West Hatfield.
In 2017, Miles acquired Morrisville Lumber Co. and its outlets in Morrisville and Stowe.
Allen Lumber’s expansion occurred over the a much longer period of time, but the two businesses have evolved in similar fashion. Once largely just lumber yards, both have diversified and carry a range of building materials, including doors, windows, cabinets, countertops and plumbing fixtures, as well as kitchen and bath design services.
The similarities are a big reason why Miles was interested in buying when the Allens decided they were ready to sell, and why the only evident change to customers will be the name on the signs in front of the stores and the statements they receive in the mail.